Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bottling Yoga at The Allegro

Note: I had captured some lovely pictures of the yoga students mentioned below. Then, in the process of transferring the pictures from my camera to my computer, something mysterious happened...and I, unfortunately (to the point of tears), lost those pictures. I still am not sure what the bigger life lesson about that "lost" was, but I ended up turning my upset energy into "clearing out" energy (as in releasing more paper, books and such). Then, in the process, I came across this poster (pictured here) hiding behind a treadmill in my home office. This inspirational reading is now hanging on the side of my refrigerator for my son and his friends (and other guests) to see and be inspired by. One line reads: "Enjoy life today, yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come." That line is helping me to not focus so much on what happened yesterday with the lost pictures.

On to yesterday's blog entry I wrote:

It's on my heart to journal about a yoga class I taught on Wednesday to two staff members at The Allegro, a loving and aesthetically-pleasing assisted living facility near my home that offers yoga to its residents and staff.

I typically like to begin the yoga classes I teach with the posture we end in -- Shavasana (relaxation pose). On Wednesday, however, for the staff, we began with a variation of Shavasana --with the heels of the feet resting up on a chair. The minute the students got into that position, their "ooos" and "ahhhs" signaled that the pose felt good to their bodies and any stress accumulated prior to or duing their workday was already beginning to disappear.

After centering ourselves (mentally and physically), I instructed the guys to keep their spines connected to their mats while raising their legs up off the chair (in a tabletop position) to rotate their ankles, and point and flex their feet. I often remind them that the Chinese say that "aging begins in the ankles."......."But, not for us," I tell them, as we twirl our feet, sometimes hearing the pops and cracks work their way out. :-)

At one point, I looked over and saw one of the students, Tom, bicycling his legs, which prompted me to offer that as an option, too. "Remember when we were children and used to bicycle our legs in the air?" I asked. "Ahh, huh!" Tom replied with a clear connection to that memory. That then prompted me to invite the students to really tap into their inner child throughout the practice, making these sorts of child-like adjustments when their bodies prompted them to. "I am here to guide you into the postures," I explained, "but listen to your body when in the poses and adjust according to the needs of YOUR body. Let your inner child come out and play today," I stated.

Now, I don't know if that inner-child notion helped set the tone for a really wonderful, super-special feeling class on Wednesday, but it was indeed an energy in the air that words can't really describe, which seems to have been felt by each of us in the class. Perhaps that's what took the class from one hour to about an hour and a half, and perhaps that's what kept us there for about an extra hour after class, sharing great conversation, relaxed faces, and smiles.

Tom's Breakthrough in Flexibility
After Shavasana toward the end of class, I typically invite the students to turn to their favorite side in fetal position before rising to a seated position. However, yesterday, after fetal position, I felt inspired to instruct them to return to their backs for a little bit of spinal rocking to gently massage the back and spine before sitting up. We rocked from side to side a few times, and then back to front. We were to eventually rock right up to a seated position with legs crossed.

When Tom, a runner, rocked up to his seat on the floor, a startled "Oh my goodness!" type of comment was heard. He was shocked that his legs crossed to the degree that they did. "I haven't been able to cross my legs like this in over 30 years," he exclaimed. He was thrilled, and I was so excited for him. He had made a breakthrough in flexibility in that moment that merited a "high five" -- in that moment.

Avid-runner Tom has admitted to not stretching enough and is now enjoying yoga (compliments of his employer) to help build more flexibility in his body, which he says is not only helping him to sleep better, but is aiding his running and overall mental relaxation, too.

Yoga Straps
After we officially ended class and talked more about Tom's "breakthrough," and he repeated that his legs hadn't folded that way in so long, Ted chimed in: "It's the straps..."

I've begun making leg stretches -- via straps -- a regular part of the classes I teach. Not only is the strap a wonderful tool for helping with leg extension and opening, but it just helps make leg stretches feel really, really good -- to the point of "I can nap here in this position" type of good.

(The leg without the strap should be extended long and on the floor. Once the "strapped" leg is opened out to the side (or crossed over the body), I invite the students to turn their gaze to the hand not holding the strap -- which would be stretched out to the side.) Pictured above: Youth class I taught to the Orange Park Gators at the Fleming Island Library

Gratitude & Relaxation
Each of the adult students I teach at the Allegro have had highly favorable comments about the strap use, and I know I am certainly strapping the memories of Wednesday's class with them in my mind and heart. "It's a good space here," Ted has said on a couple of occasions referring to the room we practice yoga in at The Allegro, a TV room (with no TV on, of course) that we eventually relocated to.

"I was there," are words both Ted and Tom use to describe how deeply relaxed they get in that space. It's just a vibe in there that really helps create a nice yoga setting.

At the end of yesterday's class:
Not only do we bask in Tom's new-found leg flexibility, but Tom sees the difference in Ted's face, stress-wise, from when the class began. After our long after-class chat on many subjects, they both walk away knowing they have a done a great thing for their mind, body, and spirit health. My heart smiles, and I thank God for aligning me with this type of work.
I am honored and blessed to teach in that space to some really good people whom, I'm sure, have a lot to do with making the space there as special as it feels!

I am grateful for the blessing to meet with them each week.


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